Back in the 80’s, I wanted to come up with a unique cartoon character. I’d never been much of a mystery novel fan, but for various reasons I started on a mystery-reading jag. My mom had been an avid Nero Wolfe fan. She’d always wanted me to read them, but I never got around to it and besides, I was more a science-fiction nut: Ursula K. Le Guin, Ray Bradbury, Theodore Sturgeon, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and many more authors were my idols. I used to buy buckets of sci-fi paperbacks at a used book store in Cumberland, Indiana.
Years later, after mom died, when Cameron and I were living in Washington, D.C. I finally got around to reading all of mom’s old Rex Stout mysteries, featuring the portly, beer-guzzling detective, Nero Wolfe and his leg man, Archie Goodwin. From there I started reading Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.
I particularly liked the first-person, hard-boiled style of Chandler and I decided I wanted my new cartoon character to be a detective. Still a science-fiction aficionado, I combined the two genres, added a large dose of fantasy and all-purpose silliness. The result was Asteroid Stu. If I remember correctly, it was actually Cameron who came up with the name.
I started a short novel which quickly developed into Asteroid Stu and the Corpse on the Comet. Stu is the premier (and most-likely the only) private eye in the huge expanse of the asteroid belt, that region between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter interspersed with the left-overs of the solar system, the almost two million bits of rocky chunks, some more metallic than others, some made partly of ice.
Stu had a considerable advantage over the competition (if there was any) since he could operate miraculously in the harshest conditions of outer space without the slightest discomfort. His abilities were due to his girlfriend, Astral Aura, who was a sorceress of considerable power. Unfortunately, she was also intangible! Her sorcerous quests had resulted in a ghostlike lack of materiality, a condition Stu in particular found extremely frustrating!
My frustration, however, had to do with drawing these characters! I struggled for years before I finally was sufficiently satisfied with my depiction of them. It really wasn’t until I self-published Asteroid Stu and the Mind-Duel that I felt enough confidence in their appearance that I could make a comic book. The Corpse on the Comet was still all prose.
I later went back into The Corpse on the Comet and added pictures from different periods to illustrate it. I never turned it into a comic, but self-published it with a motley collection of cartoon illustrations gathered from different periods.
When I got involved in the Virtual Man story featured in Multiverse Comics and Stories I began to see how Asteroid Stu and Astral could become part of it. At the end of Asteroid Stu and the Mind-Duel, I hadn’t resolved Stu and Astral’s dilemma. Plus the book ended with two incipient alien invasion converging on our solar system!
I was actually on a meditation retreat up at the Forest Refuge in Barre, Massachusetts when the ending of the Virtual Man story and the resolution of the invasions and Astral’s discorporeality suddenly plopped into my mind. You don’t go on meditation retreats to solve comic book plotlines, but it seems there is more to our minds than what meets our awareness. Underneath all the messy, meandering, discursive thought, emotions, memory and what-have-you, something else was at work. When the ending came to me, I had to feverishly jot it all down.
It’s taken five years to get that sudden brainstorm down in pictures. The whole Virtual Man story became “The Case of the Renegade Refrigerator,” and all the ends are tied up neatly (or as neatly as they ever will be). You don’t have to have read the previous books to grok the story. Plus, as an extra bonus, there’s a little nod to our present POTUS, who, for my money, is the weirdest, silliest, real-life cartoon character in existence!
If you are still reading this, why don’t you invest a few bucks ($4.99, to be exact), in the whole enchilada and read this epic, quixotic adventure by buying the digital comic at comiXology, right here. Thank you!